Which sodas contain BVO? After FDA bans food additive, avoid these products

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is banning the use of a food additive known as brominated vegetable oil after the agency concluded that it is no longer safe to consume.

Brominated vegetable oil is a stabilizer used in citrus-flavored beverages and was previously authorized by the FDA to be used in small amounts of 15 parts per million or lower. However, not many products in the United States still currently use brominated vegetable oil, according to the FDA.

In November last year, the FDA first proposed that it would ban BVO. The news came shortly after California banned BVO and three other food additives in October 2023.

BVO was also banned in the United Kingdom in 1970 followed by the European Union in 2008, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent food and health watchdog organization. India and Japan have also banned the ingredient.

Digital Products What is brominated vegetable oil?

Brominated vegetable oil, also known as BVO, is an oil that has been modified with bromine, a naturally occurring chemical element, according to the FDA. It is used as a food stabilizer primarily in citrus drinks to keep the flavoring from separating and floating to the top.

BVO used to be on the FDA’s list of ingredients generally regarded as safe but was restricted to be used only in products containing food flavorings after multiple toxicity studies by the Canadian Food and Drug Directorate in 1969, according to the CSPI.

On July 3, the FDA revoked the regulation that authorized BVO’s use in food items.

Digital Products Why is brominated vegetable oil banned?

The FDA said it banned brominated vegetable oil after “the results of studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found the potential for adverse health effects in humans.”

More specifically, these were animal studies that found BVO had “toxic effects on the thyroid gland,” Thomas Galligan, Ph.D., principal scientist for food additives and supplements at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, tells TODAY.com.

One study published in 2022 — which Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior food scientist at Consumer Reports, describes as “foolproof” — found that BVO can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland, which can lead to hypothyroidism (when the gland produces too little of the thyroid hormone), weight gain and depression.

The BVO ban goes into effect in the U.S. on Aug. 2, 2024. After that, companies will have one year to reformulate, relabel and stop selling products that contain BVO.

“Most of the major (soda) brands have already phased BVO out of their formulations,” Galligan says.

That said, there are some drinks on the market that contain BVO, such as Sun Drop, made by Keurig Dr Pepper.

Sun Drop Soda Bottle. (Dr. Pepper)

“We are actively reformulating Sun Drop to no longer include this ingredient and will remain compliant with all state and federal regulations,” a KDP spokesperson told TODAY.com in an email statement.

TODAY.com also identified a soda available for purchase at Walmart that contains BVO, the Great Value Orangette orange soda.

Orangette Soda bottle. (Walmart)

“We are aware of the recent FDA action regarding the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in food. Walmart has been working with private brand suppliers to reformulate products. Currently, there are very few Walmart private brands items that still contain BVO, and we expect them to be reformulated in advance of the FDA compliance date,” a Walmart spokesperson told TODAY.com via email. (Great Value is a Walmart brand.)

TODAY.com also identified store-brand orange sodas that contain brominated vegetable oil for sale at Giant.

Giant Food Orange Soda (Giant Food)

In an email statement to TODAY, a Giant spokesperson said in part: “We are aware of the FDA rule regarding BVO in products and are committed to following the FDA guidance in reformulating our products that currently contain this ingredient. … Before the rule took effect, Giant Food had already initiated efforts to reformulate our products to remove BVO while ensuring that we maintain the quality standards our customers expect. … We will continue to work diligently to comply with the FDA regulations regarding BVO, ensuring that our products meet the highest safety and quality standards.”

Grocery chain HEB also sells store-brand orange sodas containing BVO, TODAY.com found. The grocery chain did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Digital Products Tips to tell if soda is made with BVO

To determine whether a soda contains BVO, Galligan suggests first looking at the ingredient list, which is required to state if the drink contains BVO. It will say “brominated vegetable oil” or “brominated” and a specific type of oil, such as soybean.

Some other things to look out for to avoid soda with BVO, according to Galligan:

  • It’s most common in citrus-flavored drinks.

  • If the drink looks cloudy throughout the bottle, it may contain BVO.

  • Generic, off-brand sodas are more likely to have BVO than name brands.

  • If you’re drinking fountain soda in a restaurant, they usually carry name brands, so the risk of it having BVO is lower, but ask a restaurant worker about the brand and ingredients if you’re concerned.

Digital Products Do other drinks besides sodas have BVO?

Galligan says BVO is typically found in carbonated drinks, but non-carbonated drinks can also contain it, Hansen says. So both experts recommends double-checking the label before buying any citrus-flavored beverages.

“If it’s a citrus-flavored drink that’s also kind of cloudy and it’s off-brand, those are your hints that maybe you should flip that bottle over and take a look at the ingredient list,” Galligan says.

It is not a concern with 100% fruit juice, he adds.

Digital Products Do Coke and Mountain Dew contain BVO?

No, Coke doesn’t contain brominated vegetable oil, according to Coca-Cola.com.

And no, Mountain Dew does not have BVO in its ingredients list, according its maker, PepsiCo.

In fact, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola no longer use BVO in any of their products, NBC News reported. Gatorade also no longer contains BVO, Hansen says.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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